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Got it! Thank you! Cruise News for the Week of October 9, 2008

Disney embarks for Europe, Royal Caribbean jettisons Island Cruises, Crystal cruises to Tibet?, plus more news from the cruising world.

Mickey Goes to Russia: Disney Announces New Northern Europe & Mediterranean Itineraries

Since its 1998 start-up, Disney Cruise Line ( has been one of the most conservative cruise lines in terms of deployment, spending its first half-decade sailing unvarying Caribbean routes, then branching slowly and tentatively out to the Mexican Riviera and the Mediterranean.

Time for the next step: This week, Disney announced that in 2010 the 83,000-ton Disney Magic would be spending five full months in Europe, offering two major itineraries and four repositioning cruise:

  • 12-night Northern Europe (JuneÂ?July 2010): Representing an all-new region for Disney, the line's 12-night Northern Europe cruises will sail from Dover, England, and visit Oslo (Norway), Copenhagen (Denmark), Warnemünde (Germany's seaport gateway to Berlin), St. Petersburg (Russia), Helsinki (Finland), and Stockholm (Sweden). Rates start at $3,649 per person.
  • 10- & 11-night Mediterranean (AprilÂ?May & AugÂ?Sept 2010): Sailing round-trip from Barcelona, these long western Mediterranean routes offers a particularly interesting combination of ports: Valletta (Malta), Tunis (Tunisia), Naples/Pompeii (Italy), Civitavecchia and La Spezia (Italy's port cities for Rome and Florence/Pisa, respectively), Ajaccio (Corsica), and Villefranche on the French Riviera (offering easy access to Monte Carlo, Cannes, and Nice). Rates start at $2,529 per person.

Disney Magic will also be sailing 14-night east- and westbound transatlantic crossings between Port Canaveral, Florida, and Barcelona (April & Sept), plus 7- and 8-night repositioning cruises north- and southbound between Dover and Barcelona (June & July).

To make up for Magic's absence in the Caribbean, Disney Wonder will move from her normal 3- and 4-night itineraries to offer 4- and 5-night cruises visiting Nassau, Key West, and Disney's private island, Castaway Cay (JuneÂ?Aug 2010). Rates start at $849 per person for 4-night cruises and $899 per person for the 5-night voyage, which stops at Castaway Cay twice.

Reservations will be accepted for all these cruises beginning Tuesday, October 14, 2008.

Celebrity Solstice Sails from Shipyard, En Route to Sea Trials

Less than two months out from her official debut, the new 118,000-ton, 2,850-passenger Solstice from Celebrity Cruises ( marked a milestone last week when she made her first trip, sailing from the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, to the North Sea port of Eemshaven, Netherlands.

Unlike most major shipyards, Meyer Werft is located some 25 miles from the ocean, meaning that all ships built there must navigate the narrow, twisting Eems River before reaching open water.

Solstice will be berthed in Eemshaven until October 24, during which time she'll undergo two separate sea trials, receive her initial provisions, take aboard her crew for training, and receive the final touches to her interiors. On October 24 the ship will across the Atlantic to Fort Lauderdale, where she'll be named in formal ceremonies on November 14. Her inaugural season will begin November 23 with a series of alternating 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruises calling on San Juan, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, and Tortola. In spring 2009 she'll return to Europe for a series of 10- and 11-night Mediterranean cruises from Rome.

SeaDream Says "What Economic Crisis?," Plans New Ports for 2009

Effects of the current world financial crisis have begun to impact the travel sector, and have even started to be felt in the luxury market -- a segment whose reliance on the "haves" rather than the mainstream "have nots" has long insulated it from instability. At least one luxury cruise line, though, says things aren't so bad.

Commenting on the economic implosion that led to last week's as-yet unsuccessful $700 billion federal bailout, Larry Pimentel, president, CEO, and co-owner of SeaDream Yacht Club (, stated, "Bookings for 2008 continue to sell briskly at good yields and 2009 shows a strength that belies the economic headlines."

Pimentel added, "Yes, the worldwide economy is sobering for all. Yet, intelligent marketers of all kinds of luxury travel products should not give way to panic but rather offer highly measurable value to those consumers who refuse to hit the panic button."

If that sounds like you, and you're in the mood to drop a few thou on a cruise, SeaDream has also announced its itineraries for 2009, which include visits to about two dozen new ports in Europe and the Caribbean.

From May through October 2009, SeaDream I and SeaDream II will sail in the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, and the Aegean, from Croatia in the north to Tunisia in the south. New ports include Formentera (Spain), Piran (Slovenia), Ponta Delgada (the Azores), La Goulette/Tunis (Tunisia), Vis (Croatia), Lipari, St. Margherita, and Trieste (Italy), Le Lavandou, Antibes, Port Vendres, Sete, Bandol, and Menton (France), and Katakolon, Elafonisos, Aigina, Chania, and Crete (Greece).

From January through April 2009, SeaDream's Caribbean itineraries will sail among the British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico's Virgin Islands, the French West Indies and Netherlands Antilles, and the Windward and Leeward Islands. New ports include Culebra (Puerto Rico's Virgin Islands), Honeymoon Beach and Water Island (U.S. Virgin Islands), Cooper Island (British Virgin Islands), La Samana (Dominican Republic), and Coconut Grove (Nevis).

Belize Updates Safety Policy after Cruiser Drowns on Shore Excursion

On Wednesday, Sept. 24, 52-year-old Florida resident Linda Linan drowned while participating in a cave-tubing excursion in Belize. Linan was a passenger aboard Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Glory, which had contracted with the Belizean shore-tours operator Bel-Cruise to run the excursion. According to reports, unusually strong currents on the Caves Branch River caused Linan to be sucked below the surface, and rescuers were not able to reach her in time.

Responding to the incident, the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) and Belize's National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) established a new mandatory policy for cave tubing in Belize, effective October 15, 2008.

According to Director of Tourism Tracy Panton, a cave tubing accident of this magnitude has never occurred. "Belize remains committed to being a safe and secure destination for travelers around the world," said Panton. "To ensure this reputation continues, the BTB will work closely with the NICH, the Tour Operator Licensing Committee and other relevant law enforcement agencies not only to investigate the incident, but also for the enforcement of new and preventative policies that will be immediately instituted."

The new mandatory policies include an increased guide-to-guest ratios of eight to one and increased monitoring of currents and other safety factors. In addition, helmets will be required for all cave tubing participants beginning January 1, 2009.

Three Years After Wilma, Cozumel's Puerto Maya Finally Ready to Receive Ships

Nearly three years ago, on Friday, October 21, 2005, Hurricane Wilma struck the Mexican states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo -- the so-called Mayan Riviera -- with Category 4 force. The island of Cozumel, one of the busiest cruise ports in the Caribbean, was battered for more than 36 hours, suffering massive damage that included the total destruction of the Puerto Maya cruise pier, about three miles south of tourist hub San Miguel. Next week, after an construction investment of more than $50 million by Carnival Corporation & plc, Puerto Maya will finally reopen, with the 2,052-passenger Carnival Ecstasy and 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy scheduled to visit the facility on Thursday, Oct. 16.

The new two-berth pier has been specifically constructed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. The Oct. 16 calls will be the first of 550 dockings scheduled over the next year.

RCI Sells Stake in Island Cruises, Retains old Celebrity Horizon for Spanish Market

Targeting the British family market, Island Cruises ( was founded in 2001 as a joint venture between Royal Caribbean and Britain's First Choice Holidays, and was in part a place for Royal Caribbean to put its older ships: Island Cruises' Island Escape is Royal's old Viking Serenade, while its Island Star began life as the Horizon of Royal sister-company Celebrity Cruises.

This week, Royal Caribbean announced that it had sold its 50% stake in Island Cruises to First Choice, a subsidiary of British-based tour operator TUI Travel PLC (TUI). As part of the deal, TUI agreed to an early termination of Island Cruises' charter of Island Star, and will release the ship back to Royal Caribbean in April 2009. At that point, Royal Caribbean will redeploy the ship to Pullmantur Cruises, its Spanish brand.

"We thank TUI for their efforts and cooperation throughout the life of the joint venture. Island Cruises has been a rewarding investment for us, but over the past year our priorities have shifted," said Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "We believe by focusing on developing and expanding the Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises brands in the U.K. we will be better able to serve our customers and create value for our shareholders."

"Redeploying the Island Star to our expanding Pullmantur fleet allows us to better serve the strategically important Spanish market," Fain added.

Celebrity's first-ever newbuild, Horizon dates to 1990. She served with Celebrity until October 2005.

Seabourn and Orient-Express Offer Ultimate Land-Sea Luxe

Talk about the grand tour. Beginning in summer 2009, a new partnership between luxe cruise operator Seabourn ( and the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express will offer ultra-luxe transfers between London and Venice, the homeport for Seabourn Spirit's "Dalmatian Gems" itinerary.   It's a great trip. Upon boarding their British Pullman cars at Victoria Station, London, passengers dine on a three-course lunch, complete with wine and champagne, as the train travels through the Kentish countryside en route to the Chunnel and thence to France. There, guests switch trains, boarding the blue-and-gold Venice Simplon-Orient-Express carriages. Cocktails precede a multi-course meal prepared by French chefs in the train's restaurant cars. Evening accommodations are in private sleeper cars with private washbasins, soft towels, and crisp linen. The next day, afternoon tea accompanies the passage through the Brenner Pass between Austria and Italy. When the train crosses the Venetian Lagoon and pulls into Santa Lucia station, a Seabourn representative will be on hand to take passengers to the Hotel Cipriani for a luxurious night's stay before boarding Seabourn Spirit. The 7-night Dalmatian Gems itinerary visits Opatija, Split and Triluke Bay (Croatia), Kotor (Montenegro), Koper (Slovenia), and Trieste (Italy).

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express transfer will be available for cruises departing on July 4, August 15, and September 26, 2009, as well as post-cruise following the September 5, 2009, itinerary (VeniceÂ?London, with an overnight at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park). Cost of rail portion, one-way, is $4,399 per person (double occupancy) or $5,999 per person (single occupancy). Fares for the 7-day Dalmatian Gems cruise start at $4,598 per person.

Crystal to Offer Tibet Land Tour on 2009 China/Japan Cruises

Cruise ... Tibet ... Cruise ... Tibet. Don't go together, do they? Well they do now.

As part of its spring 2009 China and Japan itineraries, luxe line Crystal Cruises ( will be offering 5-night pre- or post-cruise land tours that will take cruise passengers to the roof of the world. Tour itineraries will include visits to the country's palaces and monasteries, along with the Chengdu Breeding and Research Center in China's Sichuan province, where conservation scientists are working to save the country's Giant Pandas.

The Tibet tour is available in conjunction with Crystal's spring itineraries between Hong Kong and Beijing aboard the 940-passenger Crystal Symphony. The March 27 itinerary calls at Kobe and Hiroshima (Japan) and Shanghai, Dalian, and Beijing (China). The April 5 sailing, from Beijing to Hong Kong, visits Beijing, Dalian, and Shanghai (China), plus Osaka (Japan). Both itineraries include a three-night pre- or post-cruise land program in Beijing.

The Tibet/China land program costs $4,299 per person, double occupancy, including first-class air transportation. Cruise fares start at $5,995 per person.